Tuesday, October 20, 2015

My first DMCA Takedown notice

No, no one is asking me to take down this blog or my OpenCores project. Instead, someone "scraped" the OpenCores site and pulled all the various projects into a single repository hosted on GitHub.

But that's not the problem. Everything on OpenCores is licensed under some sort of open source license, so making copies is permitted. The problem is that he's labeled every project as being available under the GNU General Public License (GPL). And that's not legal. Not all open source licenses are the same, and you can't just replace one with another and call it done. He doesn't have the right to change the license.

Nor could I change the license to the GPL even if I wanted to. Intel released the original MCS-4 series schematics under the Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. My Verilog implementation is mostly derived from the original Intel schematics, so I have no choice but to use the same license. Nor does anyone who creates a derivative work from mine.

I guess I could have turned a blind eye to this and pretended not to notice. Maybe the years I spent dating an intellectual property attorney have rubbed off on me. Or maybe I really just don't want to have to explain to Intel how my code is being offered under a different license than the one they generously granted. Regardless, I decided not to ignore it.

I'm not the only one affected by this fast-and-loose license relabeling. Most of the OpenCores projects are licensed under the LGPL, which is subtly different than the GPL; those projects have also been incorrectly labeled as GPL licensed. But there are quite a few projects that use non-GNU licenses.

I wrote to GitHub, asking them to take care of the problem. They wrote back, basically saying (and I'm paraphrasing), "File a DMCA Take-down Notice or get lost." So I did. But I'm not a heartless bastard. I offered two methods to remedy the infringement. The first is to remove all traces of my code from his GitHub repo. The second is to take the GPL and LGPL license descriptions out of the repo, separate my non-GPL code from the GPL'd code he's put in the same directories, and fix the web page so it doesn't claim the project is GPL licensed.

I'll post updates on the situation as it develops.

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